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Conservative MP for Scarborough Centre (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 35.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

CSEC Accountability and Transparency Act October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-622, introduced by the Liberal member for Vancouver Quadra.

This is a well-intentioned private members' bill, and the member's interest in this area is certainly understandable, given the recent threats to our national security posed by radical terrorist groups, such as ISIL. Unfortunately, rather than bringing forward ideas for new tools to keep Canadians safe, such as those brought forward by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in the protection of Canada from terrorists act, the member has brought forward measures that are needless and duplicative in nature. That is why the government will be opposing the bill.

Our Conservative government's opposition is based on very practical considerations. I would like to spend some time on the notion to create a parliamentary committee to further scrutinize Canada's national security intelligence activities. I emphasize the words “further scrutinize” quite intentionally.

We have debated this issue in the House several times, and our government has been clear and consistent. A robust review of our security agencies already exists. In the case of CSEC, for example, it is already one of the most highly scrutinized federal government departments. Indeed, in 1996, the Commissioner of CSEC was established for two reasons: to review the organization's activities and to hear complaints against it. Further, CSEC is subject to review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Auditor General and the Canadian Human Rights commissioner.

In the case of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, its activities are subject to review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, also referred to as SIRC, which has a similar mandate to that of the CSEC commissioner by focusing on the activities of CSIS.

Finally, in the case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I would like to remind all members that in 2013, it was our government that strengthened the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to review the national security activities of the Mounties.

These external review bodies, all of which operate at arm's-length from the government, provide a review function that works extremely well. Notably, they provide a window into the activities of these organizations, activities that often must be undertaken outside of the public eye.

That fact is critical to our discussion today, given the current focus on the threat of terrorism and how national security agencies take action to keep communities safe. Importantly, these review bodies produce annual reports. I know the member talked about her bill and that it would create reports, but there are already annual reports that are submitted to Parliament, summarizing their findings and recommendations, providing assurance of the legality and propriety of operational activities undertaken by these organizations.

I would also note that in the 2013-14 annual report of the CSEC commissioner, Commissioner Plouffe confirmed that all of CSEC activities reviewed complied with the law. He asserted the effectiveness of the review of the intelligence agencies in Canada and that in the interest of transparency, he made public as much as possible about his investigations.

What is more is the fact that SIRC, the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commissioner are well-equipped to carry out their important work. For example, each review body benefits not only from the skilled staff in their employ, but from unfettered access to the information held by the respective agency in review. Further, the Federal Court is another important element of the overall review system.

Now that I have outlined the robust system of review that already exists and works well, I would briefly touch on how Bill C-622 would depart from the current system and why we cannot support this private members' bill.

First and foremost, the proposed committee's reviews of national security related activities would overlap with and be duplicate in nature to the system of review already in place. Additionally, this bill would not establish whether or how the committee would interact with the existing review bodies. In practical terms, the lack of such a mechanism over the committee's reviews could have serious implications, including gaps in accountability and inconsistent or different conclusions. This is clearly not in the best interests of national security, especially now, and it is certainly not in the best interests of Canadians.

Finally, I would note that this would also increase the cost to taxpayers. The government already spends approximately $14.8 million per year to review the activities of and hear complaints against CSEC, CSIS, and the RCMP.

Let me be clear. We believe this is money that is extremely well spent in support of the robust system of review that we have in place. However, the creation of the committee proposed in the bill, another committee, would require new expenditures, and as I have noted, would not provide added benefit to Canadians above what already exists. In fact, it could very well hinder the work of the existing review bodies.

One fact I would also wish to emphasize today is that the existing parliamentary committees are free to study issues related to national security and the related agencies, as needed. In fact, as members in the House and those on the public safety committee recall, just a few weeks ago, the Minister of Public Safety, accompanied by the head of CSIS and the Commissioner of the RCMP, appeared in that committee and spoke candidly about the terrorist threat to Canada.

I realize that my colleagues opposite may say that in light of the recent SIRC report, we must take strong action to enhance the oversight of intelligence agencies. To that, I would say that SIRC plays an important role in ensuring that our national security agencies are held fully and publicly accountable. I would also like to thank it for doing its job and preparing that report.

CSIS is reviewing the recommendations and will implement those that will best keep Canadians safe, while protecting the rights and privacy of Canadians.

In closing, and in light of the recent terrorist attack that happened just steps from this House, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate that the first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens. We will not overreact. We have said it time and time again. We will not overreact, but at the same time, as legislators we must not under react to the threats that are upon us. We will never turn our backs on the fundamental Canadian values of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. This is imperative.

I can assure the House that at all times our Conservative government will bring forward legislation that ensures Canadians are protected from terrorists who would seek to do us harm, while also ensuring the rights and freedoms of Canadians are protected.

For all of these reasons, our government will not be supporting Bill C-622. We continue to be confident that the review system we have in place serves our government and indeed all Canadians extremely well.

Canada Border Services Agency October 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to a safe and effective border, where legitimate travel and trade is expedited, but drug smugglers are stopped in their tracks. Yesterday a shipment that originated in Argentina was intercepted by the Canada Border Services Agency. Upon inspection, officers identified several large black duffle bags filled with bricks of cocaine. Nearly 500 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of approximately $57.5 million, were seized.

On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank the Canada Border Services Agency officers for keeping these dangerous drugs off our streets and for keeping our communities safe.

Public Safety October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as members in this House know, the RCMP does work collaboratively with different organizations and groups right across Canada, working with our youth and so on.

I want to for a moment take the time to also thank the RCMP, local law enforcement, and of course our Parliament Hill security, for the outstanding job they did this past Wednesday. As many members in this House were actually in lockdown, I can assure Canadians that we were safe at that particular time, and the efforts of our security agencies are the reason.

Public Safety October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I just indicated, Canada already has independent, robust oversight over our security agencies.

In fact, the difference between us and the Liberals and the NDP is that we would rather focus our resources on giving law enforcement and security agencies the tools they need.

Public Safety October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first we are not any other country, we are Canada. In Canada we already have independent robust oversight that actually includes a former member of provincial parliament from the NDP. We are not interested in creating another bureaucracy that has the same responsibilities as the oversight body already in place.

Public Safety October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to talk about the upcoming legislation and why it is needed.

As we know, the passage of the CSIS Act occurred back in 1984. We are talking 30 years ago. A lot has changed in 30 years. When we think about where any of us may have been, I may have still been in high school. I certainly did not have a computer, did not have a cellphone and did not have email.

Things have changed, so has terrorism in this country and so have issues related to national security. That is why we need to modify and clarify the tools that CSIS has.

National Defence October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I just mentioned, we have actually increased investment in our security agencies, for both the RCMP and CSIS, and of course we are looking at new measures in the future, always examining ways that we can provide better tools for them to do their work.

National Defence October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, to make all parliamentarians aware, we have actually increased funding and investments to our national security agencies, for both the RCMP and CSIS. As well, the director of CSIS recently stated that today's terrorist threats are diffuse and they develop rapidly.

CSIS will continue to dedicate its resources to investigate the threat posed by terrorist travel and radicalization. Our government has brought forward a number of measures since forming office to give our agencies the proper tools they need. We will be doing that more so in the future.

National Defence October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, law enforcement comes forward with these types of requests, and of course the government is always willing and able to facilitate these efforts. We are always examining tools to make the system more effective in protecting all Canadians.

Public Safety October 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note and respect the comments of the opposition member. As we know, hate in this country is something we do not want to spread, and we want to make sure, when we talk about terrorist attacks and so forth, that we are talking about the individuals who have committed these atrocities abroad and here in Canada.

I would like to thank the member for that question.